Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by DaveC426913, Apr 28, 2020.


How bad is the Karen slur on a continuous scale of OK to horrible?

Poll closed May 12, 2020.
  1. 0 Harmless silly internet fun that too many are offended by

    1 vote(s)
  2. 1 Mostly harmless "You may be a redneck if..." fun

    3 vote(s)
  3. 2. Harmful, but not surprising in a cynical world

    0 vote(s)
  4. 3. Very harmful - needs to be fought as any other form of oppression

    0 vote(s)
  5. 4. Analogous to the N-word - as some claim

    0 vote(s)
  1. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    This is a serious thread, and I hope to receive sincere responses to it.

    How bad is "Karen" on the scale of name-calling? Sexist? Racist? Misogynistic? Classist? Ageist?

    If you don't immediately know what this thread is about, you may want to be reticent to weigh in.

    Please be sure to do your own reading up on the issue - I don't want to bias the input by laying down my own definition.

    Just Google history/summary Karen meme and read what people have to say.

    I also hope that, assuming it polarizes, one side won't attempt to browbeat the other. Let's try to keep this civil and open-minded.

    Here's why I'm posting: I am not yet sure where I fall on this issue - partly because I acknowledge it is surely more nuanced than I am aware, and thus there are aspects to it I have not considered. It has a current-usage, it has a past usage, and it even has a deep past usage. And there are certain contexts in which it should be examined.

    So I don't have to have a Notepad open to write down the consensus/spread, I've made this a simple poll.
    Hopefully the options are self-explanatory and they span the entire gamut of possible opinions.

    One possible bias I'm already guilty of can be quickly countered with the arguments
    "there is no such thing as mostly harmless" and "A slur is a slur, no matter how small."

    This is why I included the "redneck" option. I offer it as an exemplar of a slur that's about as harmless as a slur can get - but - there is definitely a valid argument to be made that any form of oppression is still a "dark pattern" (to coin a software phrase). It's along similar lines as "Slobbovian" jokes, up through "Newfie" jokes, etc. These are often considered - by the teller - as harmless, but they're not.

    Is there a threshold where acceptable becomes unacceptable? Is that threshold greater than zero? I'm trying to account for that in the poll.

    What is your vote and what are your thoughts?
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
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  3. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    I can't comment because it is just a bunch of woman with weird hairdos and a stupid quote. If I knew the origin that gave rise to the meme, I might have a better understanding of it. Perhaps you can research it and give details as its genesis.
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  5. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Don't know her.
    Hmmm, why?

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    OK, have some idea now.
    I'm pretty sure it will result in one side brow beating the other.

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    Couldn't agree more.
    Not voting, but I will say that I have been called a old bastard in my day, [or even worse] and while on the odd occasion that may be meant as an insult, most generally it is no more then a term of endearment that I use myself to describe old mates as well as myself. Similar examples can be given in many aspects of social interactions.
    Worth noting that I have also been labeled as a smart arse, a God knocker, an old commie bastard and leftie, a low down dirty rotten right wing bosses man, a sexist, a misogynist, a Gentleman, a really good bloke, a great friend to have, a good lover, an Atheist, etc etc etc mostly by others of whose so called "standards" I have offended [or aligned with] which I believe in many cases was/is highly questionable in itself. [Certainly not in relation to the Mrs and those seeing me as a good mate and great bloke

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    I suppose one could gauge from that, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

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    [you know what I mean David]
    The important issue at hand though is that I do try to be reasonable all the time, and the standards I uphold are again standards that are accepted by most, and I reject all those labels that have been directed at me, [the derisive ones] as simply pay back or revenge, or others taking themselves too seriously. I mean fair dinkum, how could I ever be all that I have been called!

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    But yes, I tell the odd Irish joke, generally conveyed to me by my good Irish mate, and the odd blonde joke, and the odd derisive Aussie joke, as well as the odd Pommie joke, or Scottish joke, all less then complimentary it could be said but all taken with good humour as they were meant to be. And in recent times, even the odd coronavirus joke.

    Best of luck anyway with the poll! I may or may not make further comment if and when I see fit.

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    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Somewhat sexist/racist because Karen is a white woman. But it's not predicated on race or sex (or hair color) - it's just that the example of a stuck up person that became common was a middle age white woman.

    To put it another way, the term "hillbilly" is somewhat racist because the stereotype is white. It is also somewhat sexist because "Billy" is a male name. But unlike racial or sexual slurs, the reason the term was created (and maintained) was to mock a specific type of person, namely unsophisticated people who live remotely in rural areas - not whites or males. Over time, of course, meanings can change.
    geordief likes this.
  8. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I don't know, Sunshine. I assume Karen is similar to saying "Nancy" or "snowflake".

    I might use it if someone is asking for it but it wouldn't be the first thing out of my mouth.
    wegs likes this.
  9. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    My cast vote (which might potentially be of sarcastic impulse) stems from being swayed by an op-ed (excerpts below) that seems to excuse it on the grounds of such facetiousness being a coping tool for dealing with white privilege and an expressive venting of historical grievances.

    Which is to say, a taboo against "antipathetic and depreciative" type humor/sarcasm and slurs isn't necessarily universal. Certain group classifications (like white people) may be contingently exempt from "protection" when the wielder "belongs" to an oppressed or persecuted community or regional-based minority. (When individuals of the latter go rogue from what should be their proper thought orientation allegiances, they may also lose this already precarious speech immunity.) And the Foxworthy-ism, yes, the taboo doesn't count in instances of "perceived" self-abuse (see footnote).

    Idle stream of consciousness question: Are "white person" reactions just poseur pretenses of being offended or is there additionally a speculative "fear" contributing? Hmm... Though a "round-em all up" patrol would probably ignore it in their passion of the moment (i.e., false sense of security on my part), I've got what Elizabeth Warren didn't have: A CDIB card to show any future Grudges Pogrom that comes a-knock-knock-knocking at the door. "What's that? There's supposed to be a white woman residing here? Nah, I don't see no stinking prima donna round here."

    The ‘Karen’ memes and jokes aren’t sexist or racist. Let a Karen explain.

    EXCERPT: As a kid in South Dallas in the ’90s, I remember one time when I introduced myself to other black kids at the mall. [...] “That’s a white lady’s name.” [was one response] ... My mother, who grew up in Nigeria, named me Karen precisely because she wanted me to blend into white American society and face fewer problems in life than I would have with a foreign or a “black-sounding” name. Being a Karen has probably given me some advantages.

    [...] In America, white women are to be believed and protected at all costs, even at the expense of black lives. In 1955, it was a white woman who falsely accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of whistling at her in Mississippi, which led to him being brutally beaten and killed. Fast-forward to recent years and we still learn about black people being arrested or assaulted because a white woman called the police unnecessarily. Becky and Karen memes and jokes should be understood in this context, part of a long tradition to use humor to try to cope with the realities of white privilege and anti-blackness.

    Dehumanizing slurs don’t gain their cruel power overnight. They are part and parcel of generations of violence, erasure and discrimination. Calling the Karen meme the new N-word or asserting that it is sexist slur only trivializes actual violence and discrimination that destroy lives and communities.

    And to invent oppression when none is happening to you? Well, as a Karen, I just have to say — that is peak Karen behavior.

    RELATED: Missing white woman syndrome

    - - - footnote - - -

    Excerpt from 60 Minutes, "The N-Word". Interview by Byron Pitts. Jan, 2011. From interview transcript).

    David Bradley (the novelist): Yeah. Yeah. You're my n_____r, man. Look, what… In every group, there are words that you use, there are inflections, there is knowledge about what a word means to you, or to me, or how I mean it when I say it that is not an insult. I think one of the things that offends white people about it is that they can't say it. They say, "Well, is it because of my inflection, or is it because…" It's… "No, because you're not us." Jeff Foxworthy says, you know, "You can't make jokes about a redneck unless you are one." You can't say n_____r unless you are one, and unless you are willing to accept everything that goes with it, which is a lot of good stuff, you know? And that's what they want, they want that good stuff."

    Byron Pitts: What's the good stuff that goes with that word?

    David Bradley: Having awareness that you have, your people have overcome centuries of oppression. The pride of saying, "Yeah, you can say anything you want and it won't slow me down one bit."

    Byron Pitts: But the word is hurtful.

    David Bradley: The word is not hurtful. How it is used is hurtful, the people who is saying is hurtful.
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  10. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Is there an equivalent for men? Lol
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  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    What's why I was hoping to hear some comments about the deep history.

    I thought I'd read that is was originally used in the black community and aimed at black women, and had more to do with class than anything else.
    Further reading suggests it may originally have been used by blacks, yet still aimed at white women.

    Take this opinion for what it's worth:

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    OK, either way, Karen is aimed at white women, no matter how you cut it. So, racist.

    Sexist? Is it targeting them because of their womanhood? It seems Karen is really about attitude and obnoxiousness. That's behaviour. A choice.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2020
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member


    'Chad' is one.
    But I haven't seen that one anywhere.

    (Ominously, Chad is also a stereotype used by the Incel crowd.)
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2020
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Depends on what "Nancy" reference you're making. "Nancy" often targets ostensibly effeminate boys, which is a form of gay-bashing.

    "snowflake" is 100% targeting social and political beliefs. I'd say it's pretty gender- and race- agnostic.

    I'd be interested in Bells' input; she likely has deeper insight into the issue than many of us.
  14. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    True, regarding "Nancy" however it's generally not directed at gay people so it's hard to call that "gay bashing". It's like a guy walking up to his male friends before a hike or in the gym or where ever and saying "are you ladies ready to go?".

    It's implying that they are soft and it's a joke of course.

    What does "Nancy" imply that "Karen" doesn't?
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Oh Wegs, don't be such a Cody.
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Nancy is an indecisive wimp who will quibble over anything. Karen wants to see the manager because the waitress wasn't obsequious enough.
    Seattle likes this.
  17. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Yea, a “Chad” is considered the cool, good looking guy that easily attracts all the women (according to incels)


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    Wegs is short for “west end girl” - Idk if I’ve shared that here, but I used to live near a place called the West End.
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  18. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    As far as white privilege goes and the various offshoot character attributes associated with it in the male sphere... There may be various memes that are derogatory but not represented by personal names.

    Although referencing a population group in general, the classical white American slurs were probably specifically aimed at white men more often than white women in their immediate usage. Due to the former having historically had the administrative and publishing power -- and some monetarily poor and subordinate white males, along with some of bourgeois status, directly engaging in _X_ behaviors and deeds.
    wegs likes this.
  19. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Presumably when you tell people that, they invariably start singing Pet Shop Boys ?

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  20. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Ah, OK. Tiassa and Iceaura, in that order.
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Hey. This thread is doused in gasoline already. I asked people not to light matches.
  22. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member


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    Click for Leroy: Why he gotta be Jerome? Why can't he be Tommy, or Philbert, or somethin'?

    Karen is the latest iteration of a long cultural trend. As near as I can tell, Karen is the Soccer Mom of Beckys.

    The word is harmful like the sting of a snowball fight; it can be used as a weapon, but comparing "Karen" to "nigger" is indicative of an underlying problem.

    I once asked what the masculine equivalent of "bitch" was. Nobody was anxious to stand up and say, "dick", and I think the reason why is obvious. What's the word? "Snowflake"? We used to call such a man, "pussy". Or, "bitch". The standing bro code, such as it was, had never held being a dick in the same class as being a pussy or bitch, and being a cunt was certainly worse than being a dick. I mean, sure, obviously, nobody was going to say, dick.

    And why not, when we have the word, "jerk"?

    Wait, what?

    I know, I know. But, hey, y'know, we were just being elitists if we didn't take that seriously. (Really, it's a conservative thing.)

    That was years ago. "Karen"?

    It's not a nice word, but neither is, "asshole".

    "Karen" is a stupid insult, but it fits the market trend. And that's one of the curious questions about it. There is a reasonable case that people shouldn't bother with Karen or Becky or Soccer Moms, and all that, because they are wickedly-intended terms. But it's also an example of the question about how much attention we should give the hurt feelings of empowerment majorities. To wit, anyone who has said women need to lighten up about sexual harassment should probably not complain about the fact of people saying, "Karen". Anyone who has complained about black people having mean words, like "honky", or, "cracker", for white people, should probably not complain about anyone saying, "Karen", especially if you never stood up for Jake.

    Before the cartoon, being a "Dilbert" was an unkind circumstance. While the name has history back to the fifth century, CE, it was among my cohort the word some people said instead of dilwad or dilhole, which, for my cohort, were derived from dill pickles as phallic insults among boys.

    As an insult, "Karen", is behaviorally oriented, and questions of race wouldn't have anything to do with it if Karen, as such, leaves it out.

    One thing, though, about the idea of there being no such thing as mostly harmless, is the circumstances under which such notions are applicable. And if a slur is a slur, who defines what a slur is? Some people think it's a slur to call someone racist. Trust me, "Karen", will be pissed off no matter what you call her, other than, "absolutely right, ma'am, and we're so sorry to be so unworthy!"

    But, sure, if it helps some, out there, feel better to fret over the Karen stereotype, let's neuter it and call her, asshole, instead. Too general? How about, shitmouth? To much diversity in shitmouthing? I know, let's go with, fucktard. Honestly, though? Karen doesn't deserve either of those. Shitmouth and fucktard are far too fine of words to waste on the proverbial Karen. She is known by many names, is part of something larger, and no, I don't care what her husband's name is, but we'll certainly bury them next to Biff and Buffy when time and tide should call. Perhaps we should just mark the stone with the family name, Sin.

    Meanwhile, I can't believe Williams Street is after Debbie, again. What a waste.

    I should also note, of rednecks: Redneck was as redneck will, and was sort of just a word. I mean, for as much as people might have said, "city slickers", once upon a time, what do we do about "hillbilly", or, "redneck"?

    It was, for in my time, Jeff Foxworthy who brought rednecks to the popular fore. It was great, even according to the rednecks. It was their day in the sun. They felt loved and appreciated.

    But outside that, well, right. There is an old joke about American auto racing: Go fast, turn left. I have, in my lifetime, heard this joke compared to Jim Crow and the suppression of the Civil Rights movement. Meanwhile, do you know why we won the Gay Fray? Really, we cannot discount that white men would be counted among the winners. Once upon a time, "redneck" had even less punch than, "city slicker". But rednecks made themselves a reputation; the term is, in its twenty-first century usage, behaviorally oriented. Complaining that redneck is the new nigger never worked, which in part was why we saw some back and forth a few years back about the word, "thug", which, while it seems behaviorally oriented, was a slur in its history, a catch-all excuse for lynching a black man. As black people are human beings, they are imperfect; in such a time and circumstance, all anyone needed was an excuse. And if that standard made the rest of society thugs, too, well, at least they weren't black.

    "Karen", is not a useful trope. However, in the history of name-calling, the backlash I've been seeing in socmed against the Karen stereotype would seem bizarrely dubious except for fulfilling type, which is itself a strange thing to say. We have a joke over in my corner of socmed, and it largely remains tacit, but someone went and said it a few months back, because it was impossible to not notice that the tough guys looking to trigger sjws, and such, were incredible snowflakes, kind of how mras, mgtows, and incels keep turning out to be such ... well ...

    (... [sigh] ...)​

    ... such pussies.

    And, honestly, I don't even know how to compare the two words. What makes, pussy, an insult is a neurotic mess that only a man can make, and yet the people who make the biggest example of why it is unwise to feed misogyny with such words are the biggest pussies of them all. Nigger? History itself ought to be sufficient to make the point of why it is such a terrible word.

    But, "Karen"?

    Part of why I find this such a mindfuck is that I can think back to objections, in the Eighties and Nineties, against political correctness, and there is a nearly consistent political arc 'twixt that and the objection to "Karen".

    But we're also in a social media generation, so these things come 'round through strange vectors, sometimes. My twitfeed, for instance, depicts—in tweets from the objectors—the objection to the Karen stereotype in a context best described as, they still don't get it.

    Nonetheless, it's not a useful stereotype, and our societal discourse suffers for such superficial, trend-driven contrapopulism.

    Maybe I should just call Karen a dick. Doesn't really solve the problem, does it?

    If we start at a far extreme, no negativity at all, and start working back toward the reality of this or that inquiry, two questions emerge: What is the actual reality of the inquiry? and, Why now?

    I should note this:

    Without that information, it is hard to answer your question—

    —because words like threshold and acceptable remain utterly relative to the beholder, and thus the answers might well have nothing to do with what you're asking.

    Traditionally, though, thresholds of acceptability have to do with assertions of harm per the aesthetics of whoever is in charge. As individual matters, as long as it's utterly internal, it's none of my, or anybody else's, business; the practical question inherently involves other people. I can recall the "Thought Police" complaint against political correctness; they never did quite understand the difference between internalized thought and outwardly-directed action.

    Colloquially, it's all fun and games until the empowerment majority is offended. The threshold, as such, is that the people who are supposed to lighten up and stop complaining so much lighten up enough to presume to take part in the custom. Watch white people complain about cracker. Compare men talking about the harmless fun of telling a co-worker she should be on a stripper pole, or asking her what underwear she's wearing, to the guys whining about mean girls in bathrooms, or women harassing them in bars. It's not just the contrast, but the expectation that they should hop the line. Justice comes when justice comes; they can get in line with the rest.

    Think of it this way: It's not for general political correctness that I don't do the joke about stuffing Karen into the wood chipper, but that the Karen crowd will forget she's a stereotype they're complaining about and think they're being threatened.
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'm curious. How did you / would you vote?

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